11 “Must Do” Muscle Building Exercises

The debate of olympic, powerlifting, strongman, or hybrid training will always rage on, but there are some accessory lifts that everyone should be doing..


11 “Must do” Secondary Lifts

1. Unilateral Leg Training - You live by pushing off one leg…walking, running, going up stairs etc.  Not enough people are incorporating single leg training (lunges, split squat etc.  Need more ideas –  62 Unilateral Lower Body Exercise VIDEO)

2.  Single Arm Dumbbell Pressing - Single arm dumbbell bench or over head press will train your core better than a billion crunches.

3.  Glute bridges – The majority of people have weak glutes and they don’t even know it!  Add some double or single leg bridging.  (glute strength trick video)

4.  Chin Ups – Do them.  If you can do them yet, get stronger until you can.

5. Push Ups - We are never too old to do the classic push up! I know some “experienced lifters” that haven’t done a push up in years….Bring them back!

Here’s two push up challenge videos to mix it up – Dynamic Push Up Challenge and Strength Endurance Push Up Challenge.

6. Sprint. Very few, if any, activitied build overall fitness like sprinting.

7. Farmers Walks. You don’t need fancy farmers walks handles (but they are awesome!) to do this exercise. Take a pair of dumbbells….heavy…and walk 20 yards and back. Rest and repeat for some big upper back muscle and core strength.

8. Tricep Exercises. Almost any of them. Too many people go over to the curl rack to do “arms” and neglect the triceps. The bodyweight variation below is one of my favorites as it isn’t too bad on the elbows.

9. Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat. Don’t go over to the dumbbell rack so fast! If you usually use dumbbells for BSS, try out a straight bar you will see what I mean when you are walking up the stairs the next day.

10. Mobility Drills. Boring? Maybe, but they are essential to over all health. I like plate halos for the shoulders and hurdle mobility for the lower body.

11. Throwing things. In a commercial gym, med balls are a great choice. You can’t really go wrong (but do choose light weight, rate of force development is more important than weight). Just throw.

Chewy gets it…


What secondary lifts do you get big gains from?

- Joe Hashey, CSCS –

PS. If you want a complete exercise index, get BULL STRENGTH!

Synergy Facebook Comments


  • jhashey

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    [New Post] 11 “Must Do” Muscle Building Exercises – via #twitoaster http://www.synergy-athletics.com/effecti

  • Jerry Shreck

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011


    I know you work this but it was not directly included on your list and that is “grip work”. Pinch and multi-planar movements. I know grip is worked in with many exercises but I am a believer that you benefit from doing specific grip type of exercises that will have carry over to most other strength movements.

    • Admin: Joe Hashey, CSCS

      Reply Reply February 24, 2011

      Very good addition Jerry, thanks! I’ve started to work grip in with the other exercises so I forgot to mention it (ie thick grip farmers walks).


  • Joe

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    Pullups using pinnies awesome for grip work.


  • Gabe

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    i use a lot of those with my clients, if it aint broke…
    i would also add Chewbacca was a big proponent of bilateral arm pulling exercises, the pulling off of other people’s arms that is.

  • jhashey

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    11 “Must Do” Muscle Building Exercises http://www.synergy-athletics.com/effecti

    • huskybear21

      Reply Reply February 25, 2011

      RT @jhashey: 11 “Must Do” Muscle Building Exercises http://www.synergy-athletics.com/effecti

    • Dynamicduotrain

      Reply Reply February 25, 2011

      @jhashey Lovin that 62 exercise video. Keep up the great work.

      • jhashey

        Reply Reply February 25, 2011

        @Dynamicduotrain Thanks! I appreciate you checking out the video!

  • Clement

    Reply Reply February 24, 2011

    I love this article, man. I really only use the barbell in the gym for my lifts, whether it’s for a lunge variation, pressing or rowing movements. I know some may not like that, but barbells just give me that thrill.

    Out of the gym, I do one-legged or one-handed variations of bodyweight exercises and single-kettlebell work, if you don’t count sprinting.

    Full ROM is always paramount! I do full squats (I know some like the powerlifting kind, but I like the high-bar olympic squat more), pull-ups until the bar goes at least to my neck and lower the bar to my chest when benching.

  • Lee

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    Nice Joe, I would like to say most people can’t/shouldn’t sprint because of various issues and that if you just do any type of non steady state running you will be just fine. Running is naturally plyometric so you don’t need any extra plyo’s unless you like jumping. Also dedicated posterior chain work with RDL’s, GHR and back ext.

  • nick

    Reply Reply February 25, 2011

    good info joe

    • Admin: Joe Hashey, CSCS

      Reply Reply February 25, 2011

      Thanks for checking it out Nick, Lee and Clement!

      @Dynamic – I’m glad you liked the video, hopefully I can get one more out like that this spring.


  • Don Johnson

    Reply Reply February 26, 2011

    Good post, Joe. In an effort for training economy it is all about finding your own personal “bang for your buck” exercises. I know you mentioned single arm overhead press. I don’t think people do enough overhead work in general. Also if I would add to your list I am a huge fan of Kroc Rows (High Rep 1arm DB Rows). They are great for grip strength and back thickness.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field